Motorhoming the Gibb River Road

by Bernie Daniels
(Brisbane)

We own a 10.5 meter motorhome based on a bus chassis. Behind it we tow a Suzuki Grand Vitara XL7 4WD. We are hoping to travel to the area next year.

I travelled the Gibb River Road in the early 80's in a Landcruiser at the beginning of the dry and again the next year in July. Both were marvellous trips even though I was actually working as a rep visiting Aboriginal settlements including Kalumburu.

My question is, do you think it feasible to drive the Gibb River Road in the motorhome, camp in various camping areas and then use the 4WD for side trips? My greatest worry in driving the motorhome is the overhang both fore and aft and the risk of bottoming out on any sharp dips or humps.

From my memory of the trip the worst spots for washouts, dips etc. was the Kununurra end of the road. The road trains were not seen by me back then but time marches on.

Comments for Motorhoming the Gibb River Road

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Jun 26, 2008

by: Birgit

Hi Bernie,
I understand your concern, but I can't really give you a definite answer. The Gibb River Road changes all the time. Overall it is in MUCH better condition now than when you last saw it, absolutely no comparison.

But what exactly you'll find at the time is impossible to predict. It it all depends on when it was last graded, how many vehicles have been down it since, and how much too fast and too overloaded they were...

In the later dry season the Gibb River Road is usually suitable for any two wheel drive vehicles. Backpackers tackle it in stationwagons or old VW campervans and do just fine, but a bus is of course a different story for the reasons that you describe.

There are no washouts or anything. It is a really well maintained road now (by Kimberley standards), albeit horribly corrugated due to the heavy traffic it sees.

However, you still have the river and creek crossings and you could certainly run into problems there. Another issue is that the camping areas you mention are not on the Gibb River Road itself. They are all on side tracks and those are usually just tracks.

I really don't know how you would go. I suspect most people will tell you that it's impossible, but fact is busses and even low sports cars have made it along that road at times. I personally think you could probably get through if the trip is scheduled for later in the year (July onwards) and the road has been graded not too long before. But I can't predict how some of the crossings will look after the next wet.

My problem when answering this is that the question is so unusual, so it's not something I ever think about. When I drive along anywhere there I never look at the road, wondering if a bus would make it through or not. And to try and give an accurate answer from memory, even only a few weeks later, is impossible.

By the way, here is a question from another reader who wants to do the Gibb River Road in a bus.

Jun 26, 2008

by: Bernie Daniels

Thank you for your your prompt reply to my request. When we do get to go I will check in with the local shire council to ask their advice and also locate a tow vehicle that I can call on if we get "hung up". I also intend to arm myself with an angle gauge of two pieces of wood screwed together that I can check any dips that look a little suspect.
Bernie Daniels

Jun 26, 2008

by: Birgit

That sounds like a very sensible way to tackle it.

If you do really get to do this, I very much hope you will let us know how it all went.
Good luck with everything!

Sep 26, 2008
Changing road conditions
by: Anne

Hi Bernie,

As to how the bus survives will totally depend on water depth in rivers and how recently the roads were graded.
If water in crossings not to deep for you and road just graded then as long as you don't rush the trip you will be fine.

We have been up the Kalumburu road for 23 years and have had everything from buses older than yours to real old vintage cars make the trip ok.

Only thing to remember is that the roads are done by different bodies and different contractors so not always all (or even all sections) are graded at the same time. For example Main Roads Dept does the Gibb River road and the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley does the Kalumburu Road.
The reason there are so many varied reports on the state of the 'road' is because of exactly the above reasons!

It all depends on when you are lucky or unlucky enough to travel it. Sorry but no one can tell you in advance when it will be graded, that changes every year depending on when first opened, how much traffic , how much funding available.

I have seen ancient old things do it ok and at other times almost new 4WD's have had big problems.
Helps a lot if you are not in a rush as well and don't have 60 lb in your tyres.
Suggest you check it out very close to the time you would like to travel it and make a final decision then.
Cheers, Anne

Dec 25, 2008
Anne knows
by: Anonymous

I found Anne's advice to be the most reliable in the area. Certainly made my first trip there easier.
Cheers Brian and Maree June July 08

Oct 02, 2016
Beware
by: ken

It's not so much the condition of the Gibb River Road, but more the inconsiderate 4WD idiots who think because they run a big heavy rig they can travel at whatever speed they like. I will immediately stress that they are not all like that. But there are those that have no consideration for other vehicles they are overtaking or that are coming the other way. They seem to think that if they can travel at 100km/hr then they will regardless of others.
I had the pleasure of being in a new land rover {top of the line} as a passenger with the driver sitting on 70Km/hr, comfortable drive, not that much dust behind and very few stones being thrown up, but we were constantly being harassed by other drivers, going both ways, who were going at ridiculous speeds. Give your idea serious consideration.

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